Monday, 23 June 2014

Scheherazade Goes West: Different Cultures, Different Harems by Fatema Mernissi

Fatema Mernissi is a feminist Moroccan writer. I had the possibility to discover her with the book that had made her famous, Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood, many years ago.
The current book is a discovery of the western world by an eastern female eye. The writer goes to travel around the West world trying to understand why in the western culture there is a happy idea of the harem, seen as an earthen paradise of sex and seduction, while in reality they are places of slavery and submission. This research touches philosophy, art and literature from France to New York, in a very fascinating way.
What emerges eventually is that the west is not the 'women happy world' as it is in the fantasy of every one. Women might not need to wear a veil but they are "forced" to respect a precise beauty standard that prevent them of another kind of freedom: the freedom to appear as they want!!
Of course the matter is not so simple and maybe the book lacks many other aspects that in my opinion define the concept of freedom. However, the broader point of view from the western culture is interesting and brings to discussion.
What is sad is that in 2014, in every country we are still discussion women rights, as something to conquer and not something that should be part of every culture and country.

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